Audrey Rose is yet another movie recommended to me by the Netflix Gods that actually turned out to be not too bad. The Netflix Gods always recommend these kinds of 70s movies that are marketed as horror but kinda really aren't. But that's okay because I dug this one.
The plot: When a strange man starts following Janice and Bill Templeton, they're terrified as to why he seems so fixated on their 11-year-old daughter, Ivy. The man tells them that he believes that his own daughter, Audrey Rose, who died in a car crash when she was five, has been reincarnated through Ivy. The Templetons start believing it as well as Ivy has continuous nightmares and starts acting strangely.
The introduction of the story is a slow burn. It starts off with horrible car accident on a rainy day where one car slides down an embankment, flips over, and sets on fire. There's a scarily strange shot of a little girl with dark hair in the back seat of car, spinning along with it. The opening credit sequence is several shots of the Templetons enjoying the day with their daughter - a happy and smiling family with an obviously perfect life. But in every scene there is a strange man with a beard in the background, watching them.
Instead of introducing who this dude is fairly early on, they drag it out for a bit with him showing up at random places where the Templetons are. This part is mildly frustrating if you know the synopsis of the story and that the man really has no ill intention in mind (OR DOES HE???).
The film moves at perhaps too much of a snail's pace for some peoples' liking, but the conflict of characters and wondering just where the story was heading kept me plenty interested. Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Elliot Hoover, Audrey Rose's father, could have easily come off as a psycho trying to steal Ivy from her parents. Instead he plays it quite sincere - at times, yes, slightly crazy but you can tell that it comes out of desperation and grief. The only downside to his role is that he all but disappears in the second half.
The other main actors playing Ivy's parents are Marsha Mason and John Beck. I don't know who they are but they both played their parts well. Mason's hysterically conflicted mother can be a bit over-dramatic; and Beck typifies the disbelieving father role to a "T" and it all works in this movie. The father is not around for some of Ivy's crazy fits, and while he doesn't want Hoover to have anything to do with Ivy, Janice immediately recognizes that though she doesn't know him or his true intentions, he is still able to connect with Ivy and calm her down during her nightmares.
Speaking of Ivy, let's speak of Susan Swift, the young actress playing her. Her performance is only believable and/or relatable about half the time. The fits she has while dreaming (we find out later that Ivy/Audrey is reliving when she was in the burning car) is just her flailing her arms around and screaming in an annoyingly high-pitched voice. With almost every line she delivers, she wrinkles her forehead and whines like a 5-year-old. But then there are scenes where she gets it right. She is fantastic in the hypnotizing scene, for one.
However, this movie explores another side of that idea, that perhaps the soul is sometimes not ready to leave its owner and becomes conflicted in its new life. This is why Ivy continually has dreams around her birthday, which is the same day and time that Audrey Rose died. Hoover thinks that Audrey's soul left her body too soon and wasn't able to live fully in Ivy. During Hoover's trial (there was this whole thing in the middle where he sort of kidnapped Ivy for like two minutes and he was arrested and he brought up the reincarnation stuff at his trial) Janice turns against her husband and believes Hoover. Yet she is still conflicted between believing him and protecting her daughter. By the end, she has accepted all that has happened and found new peace in her beliefs. Which is nice, I guess.
Audrey Rose is a very interesting movie that might not be everybody's favorite. It explores a topic that I've not seen covered in a movie thus far so it gets points for that. It's also fun to see a young Anthony Hopkins in one of his earlier roles. He's not as powerful as he would become later on but there are definite hints of that here.